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Englishman in Bandung

Thursday 16 February 2012: Fitri

I returned to the concrete pond today, as there were guaranteed blips available here. I spotted several girls playing in front of the house. They saw the big, bald, white giant and all got quite excited, so I approached to see if a blip was available.

Introducing Little Miss Fitri.

All her friends ran for cover, all except Fitri, who greeted me with a cheeky grin, the brave little girl was intrigued. This was most unusual, sometimes the boys are brave enough to stand their ground, but never the girls. She was probably more comfortable as she had met me on my previous visit. Tata, who I blipped a few days ago, was present, so I shook hands with a greeting, showed the camera and gained his approval for a shoot.

Fitri was a smart girl and had been paying attention in her school English lessons and was able to ask me my name and where I was from. Her English was still as rudimentary as my Indonesian, so we didn't really learn much about each other, but it was refreshing and great fun. I showed the images to Tata, thanked him and was on my way.

The Bandung story - part 6

The new offices were on an industrial estate called Pindad. The estate was a huge expanse of reclaimed land, occupied by several small factories and industries, the main one being a large munitions factory, a bit scary, but what can you do.

My mate, Geoff and I would take long walks in our lunch break, to explore the property. Away from the buildings, there were expanses of grassy land and a treed area with heavier vegetation with a stream flowing through. There were paths everywhere, so the areas were easily accessible.

In an opening in the trees, the sun shone through and the air was filled with clouds of exotic butterflies. The grasses were infested with hoppers and we even saw a few snakes on occasion. While exploring the stream area, we spotted an enormous web spanning the stream, by far the largest web I have ever seen in my life, easily 6m long and 1.5m deep and a golden yellow color, thrown between two large bushes. Geoff pulled on the main thread and was able to shake the bush on the opposite side of the stream, the web was that strong.

Sitting on the web was a spider of similar proportions, easily 6 inches across and that with it's legs curled over in it's relaxed state. The arachnid was located over the bank, so I was able to climb down for a closer look. The spider was spindly and hairless, colored yellow and black and looked extremely dangerous. I was comfortable with spiders, having kept tarantulas in my past, so I moved in closer for a detailed inspection.

Geoff was making his concerns audible, "don't get too close, it might jump". I was in mid sentence, calming my friend with some confident words like I know what I am doing, when the spider flexed it's legs and caused the web to swing towards my face. I jumped back in horror and we both made some strange, loud noises. This was an attack mechanism of the spider, if an insect gets close to the web, the spider swings the web to ensnare it's meal. Clever stuff.

After seeing this spider, we began to see more of them all around and were grateful and surprised that we hadn't actually walked into one. We were certainly a lot more observant on our walks in future. We made inquiries as to the type of spider, to find out if it was indeed dangerous, but with little success. A few locals referred to it as a tiger spider, which made sense and they also warned not to play with them, so we assumed danger. There was no internet back then. Years later, I was able to identify the spider as a golden orb web weaver.

The spider became a project for us and we decided that we were going to catch one and keep it in the office, for observation. We constructed an enclosure from a cardboard box and a sheet of glass that we found. Cut a hole, covered in a lid for inserting food. The next day, joined by Erik the Viking, a Swedish friend who had taken an interest in our endeavors, we set off, armed with a large biscuit tin to capture the arachnid.

To be continued



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